Meditation on sacred bodies: loving our bodies, caring for other bodies & living in the communal body (themes from 1 Corinthians 12 and Luke 4)

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.
― St. Teresa of Avila

I Sing the Body Electric Walt Whitman(1 – excerpt)
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
… The natural, perfect, varied attitudes, the bent head, the curv’d neck and the counting; Such-like I love … (7 – excerpt)
…  This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be fathers in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless
embodiments and enjoyments. How do you know who shall come from the offspring
of his offspring through the centuries? (Who might you find you have come from yourself,
if you could trace back through the centuries?) (8 – excerpt)
A woman’s body … She too is not only herself,
she is the teeming mother of mothers,
She is the bearer of them that shall grow
and be mates to the mothers.
Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man? Do you not see that these are exactly the same
to all in all nations and times all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred …

Except for the BodyMary Oliver

Except for the body of someone you love,
including all its expressions in privacy and in public,

trees, I think, are the most beautiful
forms on the earth.

Though, admittedly, if this were a contest,
the trees would come in an extremely distant second.

I Got Kin Hafiz
Plant: so that your own heart will grow.
Love: so God will think,
“Ahhhhhh, I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul
over for coffee and rolls.”
Sing: because this is a food our starving world needs.
Laugh: because that is the purest sound.

Solitude Nancy Wood
Do not be afraid to embrace the arms of loneliness.
Do not be concerned with the thorns of solitude.
Why worry that you will miss something?
Learn to be at home with yourself without a hand to hold.
Learn to endure isolation with only the stars for friends.
Happiness comes from understanding unity.
Love arrives on the footprints of your fears.
Beauty arises from the ashes of despair.
Solitude brings the clarity of still waters.
Wisdom completes the circle of your dreams.

Our Bodies As Sacred

There comes a time when it is vitally important for your spiritual health to drop your clothes, look in the mirror, and say, ‘Here I am. This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped. I live here. This is my soul’s address.” — Barbara Brown Taylor

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul. — John O’Donohue

If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings. It comes with the package. ― Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually)

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Breath is the gift of life from the one who created us – from the God who is both our origin and our destination … some Rabbis teach that Yahweh is not even really a word at all.  It is literally breath itself. Yah – exhale. Weh – inhale. Yah – exhale. Weh – inhale. Which would make sense – since the closest translation of its [Yahweh’s] meaning is The One Who Causes to Become. There is just something about being known by God and animated by God’s breath in our birth and in our death that wouldn’t leave me this week as I thought about talking to you all here in this room today … This is the comfort I thought of this week as I bore witness to both birth and death. That the God whose name is our very breath – who breathed the words let there be light, who breathed into dust to create humanity, is present when we breath our first breath and present when we breathe our last – I believe that our final exhale is Yah – and that God completes God’s name inhaling Weh – and carries us on God’s divine breath into the heart of God from where we came to begin with. … Amen. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect. That place is called freedom. It’s the freedom of the children of God. Such people can connect with everybody. They don’t feel the need to eliminate anybody … ― Richard Rohr, Healing Our Violence through the Journey of Centering Prayer

Caring for Other Bodies As Sacred: Serving the Communal Body

We sit and talk,
quietly, with long lapses of silence
and I am aware of the stream
that has no language, coursing
beneath the quiet heaven of
your eyes
which has no speech.
William Carlos Williams

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes. — Maggie Kuhn

… I see [God] here, in the eyes of the people in this [hospital] corridor of desperation. This is the real house of God, this is where those who have lost God will find [God] — Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. — Thomas Merton

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. — Fred Rodgers

Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond. — Gwendolyn Brooks

Saints cannot exist without a community, as they require, like all of us, nurturance by a people who, while often unfaithful, preserve the habits necessary to learn the story of God. — Stanley Hauerwas

This time, like all times, is a very good one if we but know what to do with it. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

That day, for a moment, it almost seemed that we stood on a height, and could see our inheritance; perhaps we could make the kingdom real, perhaps the beloved community would not forever remain that dream one dreamed in agony. — James Baldwin

The lack of material well-being among the poor reflects a lack of spiritual well-being among the rest. — William Sloane Coffin

God does not look at your forms and possessions but he looks at your hearts and your deeds. — Prophet Muhammad 

Loving with Body & Soul, Heart & Mind: Holy Acts

Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don’t. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest … Amen. ― Toni Morrison, Paradise
On Interdependence
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn’t, that isn’t.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
Buddha, Assutava Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 12.2

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born toeternal life. Amen. — St Francis, Prayer
Madhyamika means “middle way,” and it examines the nature of existence. Madhyamika tells us that nothing has an intrinsic, permanent self-nature. Instead, all phenomena — including beings, including people — are temporary confluences of conditions that take identity as individual things from their relationship to other things. — Barbara O’Brien, Interbeing: The Inter-existence of All Things (essay excerpt)
Clouds In Each Paper  —  Thich Nhat Hanh
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.  “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be”, we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.  If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

Reflections on recognizing and using spiritual gifts and meditation on Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

What works of wonder can we accomplish as individuals and as local [faith communities] that turn despair into hope, hatred into love, and violence into healing? Do you feel equal to the task? If not, what do you need? What unseen power lies within us that we do not recognize? What are your gifts? What gifts do you discern within your [faith  community] and how is God calling you to transform the world around you?— Rev Kathryn Matthews (excerpt, UCC Sermon Seeds)

You have no idea how hard I’ve looked for a gift to bring You. Nothing seemed right. What’s the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the ocean. Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient. It’s no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these. So I’ve brought you a mirror. Look at yourself and remember me. ― Rumi

Knock, And He’ll open the door
Vanish, And He’ll make you
shine like the sun
Fall, And He’ll raise you
to the heavens
Become nothing,
And He’ll turn you into everything.
― Jalal Ad-Din Rumi 

There is a kind of vegetable in Vietnam called he (pronounced “hey”). It belongs to the onion family and looks like a scallion, and it is very good in soup. The more you cut the he plants at the base, the more they grow. If you don’t cut them they won’t grow very much. But if you cut them often, right at the base of the stalk, they grow bigger and bigger. This is also true of the practice of dana [giving of self and spiritual gifts … an essential Buddhist practice]. If you give and continue to give, you become richer and richer all the time, richer in terms of happiness and well-being. This may seem strange but it is always true. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Plum Village

Recognizing and Using Our Gifts

A Recipe for Creativity (based on prompts from Sula by Toni Morrison) — Excerpt from a reflection by Alex Posen

  1. Start with a curious mind and an open heart
  2. An unbiased hunger for studying the world
  3. Compassionate interest in experiences beyond oneself
  4. Attentiveness to all the dynamics, properties, qualities and details that you encounter
  5. You will know if you are on the right track if you can find inspiration anywhere and in anything
  6. Remember that you are building an archive of observations
  7. Metaphoric thinking. Metaphors are the tools of translation for all that you see, hear and feel. Metaphors give us words and ideas with which to hold and define our observations
  8. Last but not least, learn some skills, so that you can easily use your understanding to create and express your heart’s desire.

What gifts have I received? — Adapted from commentary by Curtis Thomas:

What gifts have I received? Answer these questions:

  1. What can I accomplish with my present abilities?
  2. What type of service am I personally drawn to?
  3. What have I been educated or trained to do?
  4. What gifts do my [spiritual] leaders think that I possess?
  5. What does my family (who should know me best) think that my gifts are?
  6. What specific needs are there in the church body [faith community and larger community]?
  7. Have I attempted to use a gift in a certain area and have regularly failed?
  8. When have I met with success in attempting to exercise a gift or meet a need in the body [community]?
  9. Have I asked my closest friends to honestly help assess where I could most successfully serve?

So we, in our corporate wholeness, are the glory of God, the goodness of God, the presence of God. As an individual, I participate in that wholeness, and that is holiness. That’s the only holiness we’ll ever know. It’s not my private holiness; it’s our connectedness together … Many call this state of consciousness the True Self. We have to fall through the little events of our life into this True Self. We have to fall through our life situation into The One Great Life. We have to fall through our identification with our small mind into the Great Mind of Christ … (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). We have to fall through our individual body experience into the One Spirit (see Ephesians 4:4-5), through what is manifest into the Unmanifest. There are many names and descriptions for this consciousness, for example, Being itself, “the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22), the Father, or if you were raised Catholic or Orthodox, the arms of Mary. We are always and only grabbing for images and metaphors, but the important thing is the experience of union itself. — Richard Rohr

Gifts of the Spirit

… we don’t find our gift through self-examination and introspection and then find ways to express it. Instead, we love one another, serve one another, help one another, and in so doing we see how God has equipped us to do so. ― Russell D. Moore

We must approach our meditation realizing that ‘grace,’ ‘mercy,’ and ‘faith’ are not permanent inalienable possessions which we gain by our efforts and retain as though by right, provided that we behave ourselves. They are constantly renewed gifts. The life of grace in our hearts is renewed from moment to moment, directly and personally by God in his love for us. ― Thomas Merton

God never loses sight of the treasure which He has placed in our earthen vessels. ― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

There is no greater gift than realizing the constant presence of the Divine and His Absolute Power to create and restore all things. ― Marta Mrotek

The only thing that will work is Spirit, the universal donor. It was all going to be an inside job…It was recognizing my truth, the truth of who I am. Not who I am, but whose I am.— Anne Lamott

There are spiritual gifts like mercy, faith, or generosity that enable people to set the standard, so to speak. But just because you don’t have that spiritual gift doesn’t mean you aren’t held to any standard at all. Even if you aren’t gifted in that way, you’re still called to live mercifully, faithfully, and generously. You might not set the standard, but you need to meet the standard. There is a baseline that all of us are called to. When the opportunity presents itself, we need to show mercy, exercise faith, and give generously.  ― Mark Batterson

Deep in our bones lies an intuition that we arrive here carrying a bundle of gifts to offer to the community. Over time, these gifts are meant to be seen, developed, and called into the village at times of need. To feel valued for the gifts with which we are born affirms our worth and dignity. In a sense, it is a form of spiritual employment – simply being who we are confirms our place in the village. That is one of the fundamental understanding about gifts: we can only offer them by being ourselves fully. Gifts are a consequence of authenticity; when we are being true to our natures, the gifts can emerge. ― Francis Weller

Nowhere in Scripture do we have the slightest hint that God’s people are to volunteer. Rather, the Scriptures indicate that the use of our gifts should be considered a joyful responsibility. — Curtis Thomas

Gifts for the common good (excerpt) — Rev Kathryn Matthews
… Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr … is a hero, an icon, really, a name that comes to mind when someone asks, “Does God still send us prophets?” His martyrdom only strengthens our confidence that this indeed was a man sent from God, showered with gifts, who will be remembered for his eloquent words, his courageous deeds, and his deep and abiding commitment to non-violence as the ultimate form of Christian resistance to injustice.

Dr. King was faithful to the ideal, the commitment to non-violent resistance … even in the face of police dogs with snarling teeth and the taunts of “nice, Christian” Americans … who reacted angrily and self-righteously when a people demanded justice too long delayed. Justice too long delayed, Dr. King said, is justice denied.

Renewing our own commitment

Still, as each year goes by and we remember Dr. King with our programs and sermons and singing and even our renewed commitment to justice for all of God’s children, it seems to me that it’s rather tempting to lift up this prophet, high above us, and make him so singular or special that we miss the whole point. I see the timing of Dr. King’s birthday and our communal observance as very fortunate: what better way to begin a new year that to renew our own commitment to the vision of Jesus, who practiced compassion and justice throughout his life? …

Everyday works of wonder 

I want to believe that Dr. King, while he was a great and gifted man, a prophet even, did things that we can do, too, with the gifts that God has given us. I do believe that there are everyday gifted people who are responding to human need, using the gifts God has given them — because everything we have, Paul says earlier in his letter, is something we have received—using those gifts to meet human need, to work for a better and more beautiful and more just world, to speak for those who have no voice or, better, to make sure the voiceless are heard, to stand with those who are stepped on and pushed out, to walk with those who are making their way to a better day. 

Works of wonder, yes, and yet I cannot emphasize enough how ordinary and everyday these efforts are. Whether we are called to offer up our lives for the gospel, or to live that gospel day in or day out, year in and year out, in everyday acts of compassion and justice, we are using those abundant gifts, just as God intended, and on God’s own timetable, for the building up of the reign of God.

Reflections on ‘Love Written on our Heart’ from Jeremiah plus St Patrick

Eagle Poem — Joy Harjo (excerpt)
… Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning … Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Of Love Written On (and In) Our Hearts

I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart. — attributed to Rumi

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh … You got to love it, you! … love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air … hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.— Toni Morrison, Beloved

Continue reading “Reflections on ‘Love Written on our Heart’ from Jeremiah plus St Patrick”

Reflections from Psalm 139 & MLK Weekend: Being Human

Pink Moon — the Pond (excerpt) — Mary Oliver

… You walk down to the shore.
Your coming stills them,
but little by little the silence lifts
until song is everywhere
and your soul rises from your bones
and strides out over the water.
It is a crazy thing to do —
for no one can live like that,
floating around in the darkness
over the gauzy water.
Left on the shore your bones
keep shouting come back!
But your soul won’t listen;
in the distance it is unfolding
like a pair of wings, it is sparking
like hot wires.  So,
like a good friend,
you decide to follow.
You step off the shore
and plummet to your knees …
and now you are caught …
And that’s when it happens —
you see everything
through their eyes,
their joy, their necessity;
… And that’s when you know
you will live whether you will or not,
one way or another,
because everything is everything else,
one long muscle.
It’s no more mysterious than that.
So you relax, you don’t fight it anymore,
… in the moonlight, as it says
yes.

On Being Human

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing Light of your own Being. — Hafiz

Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of being human. — Victor Frankl

Our existence was for the white man’s comfort and well-being; we had to accept being deprived of just being human. — Rosa Parks

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest, O [God], I am thine. — Deitrich Bonhoeffer

We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. … Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. ― Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Living

You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you’ve got. ― Toni Morrison

Well, there is good news, and that is why they call it the gospel. The news is not that we are worse than we think, it is that we are better than we think, and better than we deserve to be. Why? Because at the very bottom of the whole enterprise is the indisputable fact that we are created, made, formed, invented, patented in the image of goodness itself … People … cannot take away from you the fact that you are a child of God and bear the impression of God in your very soul. — Peter Gomes

More than one writer calls Psalm 139 a creation psalm, but not one about the vast mysteries of the heavens and earth or even the marvelous workings of nature around us. This creation is God’s own ongoing work in bringing the human person to fullness of life, unwrapping the mystery of us and loving us all the while. — Kathryn Matthews

Just Imagine

Imagination opens up possibility, but sometimes we do not dare to imagine something as beautiful as God. — Nanette Sawyer, (in The Hyphenateds)

We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them. — Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

What a stunning vocation for the church, to stand free and hope-filled in a world gone fearful – and to think, imagine, dream, vision a future that God will yet enact. — Walter Brueggemann

From wonder into wonder existence opens. — Lao Tzu

From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’ — Martin Luther King Jr., ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

On this day we commemorate Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America. — Coretta Scott King

Commentary about the significance of this holiday from New York Times contributor Chris Lebron: What, To the Black American, Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Imagine — John Lennon
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only skyImagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Meditations on themes of Advent week 4: Love

Below we offer the 8 categories of love as understood through a Greek lens: eros (erotic love), philia (friendship), agape (universal love), ludus (playful love), storge (family-kinship love), philautia (healthy self-love), mania (obsessive love), pragma (mature, enduring love). From which forms of love do you draw your strength and connection?

All You Need Is Love — Beatles lyrics

All You Need Is Love
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy
Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need
Love, love, love … Love, love, love … Love, love, love
Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy
All you need is love … All you need is love
All you need is love, love … Love is all you need …

PHILIA
Friendship … considered a love between equals. — Mateo Sol

You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not. ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. —Euripides

We sometimes choose the most locked up, dark versions of the story, but what a good friend does is turn on the lights, open the window, and remind us that there are a whole lot of ways to tell the same story. ― Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

… friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when. — Simon Sinek

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. — Albert Camus

There’s a kinship among men who have sat by a dying fire and measured the worth of their life by it. ― William Golding, The Spire

There is on the earth no institution which Friendship has established; it is not taught by any religion; no scripture contains its maxims. It has no temple nor even a solitary column … However, out fates at least are social. ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings

To be with old friends is very warming and comforting. — Ian Ziering

In the outworks of our lives, we were almost strangers, but we shared a certain outlook on human life and human destiny, which, from the very first, made a bond of extreme strength . . . At our very first meeting, we talked with continually increasing intimacy. We seemed to sink through layer after layer of what was superficial, till gradually both reached the central fire … ― Bertrand Russell, Portraits From Memory and Other Essays

EROS
Eros is sexual or passionate love, and is the type most akin to our modern construct of romantic love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

The Greeks, it will be recalled, regarded Eros, the god of love, as the eldest of the gods; but also as the youngest, born fresh and dewy-eyed in every living heart. — Joseph Campbell

Eros will have naked bodies; friendship naked personalities. — C.S. Lewis

Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.  — Anne Carson

Eros seizes and shakes my very soul like the wind on the mountain shaking ancient oaks. — Sappho

You can’t deny Eros. Eros will strike, like lightning. Our human defenses are frail, ludicrous. Like plasterboard houses in a hurricane. Your triumph is in perfect submission. And the god of Eros will flow through you, as Lawrence says, in the ‘perfect obliteration of blood consciousness. — Joyce Carol Oates

LUDUS
Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. Neel Burton, Psychology Today

To be running breathlessly, but not yet arrived, is itself delightful, a suspended moment of living hope. — Anne Carson

Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. ― Toni Morrison, Jazz

he placed his hands
on my mind
before reaching
for my waist
my hips
or my lips
he didn’t call me
beautiful first
he called me
exquisite
– how he touches me
Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

 

PRAGMA
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time. — Mateo Sol

 

To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. — Anna Strong

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. — Ann Landers

She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao-Tzu

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. — Leo Buscaglia

The best love is the kind that awakens the soul; that makes us reach for more, that plants the fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. That’s what I hope to give you forever. — Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook 

Love is not a mold that makes two people the same person. Love is the dream that enables both of us to be our own best person—together. Love knows no one can fill up in us what we lack in ourselves. But coming to live what we know about love for the sake of others, as well as for our self, is the one thing that can possibly stop the restless sleep that comes with loneliness. — Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight

STORGE
Storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and … children … can even be found among childhood friends … — Mateo Sol
I thank God that I’m a product of my parents. That they infected me with their intelligence and energy for life, with their thirst for knowledge and their love. — Shakira
Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. — Elizabeth Stone

It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. — Roald Dahl

Without warning he had become witness to something that stretched back through the eons, ties both elastic and enduring, surpassing death, surpassing life. She was his child. It was as simple as that and that complex. ― Kim Harrison, Into the Woods

You don’t have to have anything in common with people you’ve known since you were five. With old friends, you’ve got your whole life in common. — Lyle Lovett

So it was in Botswana, almost everywhere; ties of kinship, no matter how attenuated by distance or time, linked one person to another, weaving across the country a human blanket of love and community. And in the fibres of that blanket there were threads of obligation that meant that one could not ignore the claims of others. Nobody should starve; nobody should feel that they were outsiders; nobody should be alone in their sadness. ― Alexander McCall Smith

Cousins by chance, friends by choice.  — Proverb

MANIA
Obsessive Love. … that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance. — Mateo Sol

I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it. ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. ― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

I love you. I hate you. I like you. I hate you. I love you. I think you’re stupid. I think you’re a loser. I think you’re wonderful. I want to be with you. I don’t want to be with you. I would never date you. I hate you. I love you…..I think the madness started the moment we met and you shook my hand. Did you have a disease or something? ― Shannon L. Alder

AGAPE
Agape is universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God. —Neel Burton, Psychology Today

Do love. Don’t just think love, say love, have faith in love, or believe that God is love. Give up the idea that your ideas alone can save you. If you know the right words, then bring those words to life by giving them your own flesh. Put them into practice. Do love, and you will live. — Barbara Brown Taylor

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ― Toni Morrison, Beloved 

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.― Jimi Hendrix

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. — Victor Hugo

“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.” AND “I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me.” — St Mother Teresa 

There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. — William Butler Yeats

Many can give money to those in need, but to personally serve the needy readily, out of love, and in a fraternal spirit, requires a truly great soul. — Saint John Chrysostom

Love is not really an action that you do. Love is what and who you are, in your deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of you, but is also greater than you. That’s the paradox. It’s within you and yet beyond you. This creates a sense of abundance and more-than-enoughness, which is precisely the satisfaction and deep peace of the True Self. You know you’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (see John 4:13-14). Your True Self, God’s Love in you, cannot be exhausted. — Richard Rohr

PHILAUTIA
Self Love: The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not unhealthy vanity and self-obsession …Instead, philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion”. — Mateo Sol

All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself. — Aristotle

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you. ― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self love deficit. ― Eartha Kitt

The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. ― Carl Jung

The first step is to come home to ourselves. You don’t need to become a Buddha. You need to become yourself. — Thich Nhat Hanh


 LOVE: A Listening Heart
— Joan Chittister

There is a magnet in a seeker’s heart whose true north is God. It bends toward the Voice of God with the ear of the heart and, like sunflowers in the sun, turns all of life toward the living of the Word.

This listening heart is pure of pride and free of arrogance. It seeks wisdom—
everywhere, at all times— and knows wisdom by the way it echoes the call of the scriptures.

The compass for God implanted in the seeker’s heart stretches toward truth and signals the way to justice.

It is attuned to the cries of the poor and oppressed with a timbre that allows no interruption, no smothering of the Voice of God on their behalf.

These seekers hear the voice of God in the cry of the poor and oppressed, and they “immediately put aside their own concerns” and follow God’s call in their actions.

Monastics cling to the community in order to know a wisdom not their own, to discover the tradition on which they stand, to heed the Word of God together with one heart and one mind—embedded in many shapes and forms, and brought to the fullness of God’s will for them in mind, heart, and soul.

They give themselves to mutual obedience in order to create a common voice— a communal voice— that can be heard above the clamors of self centeredness. And they do the hard work of community-living and decision-making together, “not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness”— so that none of the actions taken together are done in vain, so that the Reign of God can come sooner because we have been here.

In a Monastery of the Heart, Benedictine listening honors the function of leadership to point us in the direction of truth, but knows that neither dependence nor license nor authoritarianism are a valid substitute for communal discernment, for seeking truth in the light of one another’s wisdom.

Communal discernment is a holy hearing of prophetic voices among us. It comes out of listening to others and responding to them in the name of God, so that as a community we can move forward together, one heart at a time.

Benedictine spirituality requires careful listening and responding to the Word of God, to the call of the Jesus who leads us, and to the call of the community that is the foundation of our spiritual life.

It is not an obedience that rests on blessed ignorance, or infantile dependence, or reckless irresponsibility, or military authoritarianism, or blind submission in the name of holiness.

A truly listening heart knows that we lose the chance for truth
if we give another—any other— either too much, or too little, control over the conscience that is meant to be ours alone.

And yet, at the same time, mutual obedience, real obedience, holy listening forever seeks the spiritual dialogue holy wisdom demands.

In a Monastery of the Heart, it is the acceptance of wisdom not our own that asks of us the spiritual maturity that listens first and always to the Word of God— and allows the Word to be the testing ground of every other demand made on our lives.

It is obedience to the greater law of love.

An authentic claim to obedience does not deny another person’s independence and autonomy of thought. On the contrary, it hones the seeker for the sake of the growth of the community and the spreading of the Word.

This listening with the heart to the insights of another is not the obedience of children, or soldiers, or servants, or minions. It is the obedience given to a lover, because of love alone.


“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”

― Charlie Chaplin

Reflections on the first week of Advent: Hope

Advent comes with yearning. The first week of Advent focuses on hope. When is hope helpful and tangible, grounded in the here-and-now as well as in what comes next? When does hope focus too much on the future and remove us from the present?

Note: Check out this ‘Guide to Grounded Hope’ from Option B.
Pragmatic approach to the practice of developing hope.

Only Hope
— song by Switchfoot, performed by Mandy Moore

There’s a song that’s inside of my soul
It’s the one that I’ve tried to write over and over again
I’m awake in the infinite cold
But you sing to me over and over and over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands
And pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

Sing to me the song of the stars
Of your galaxy dancing
And laughing and laughing again
When it feels like my dreams are so far
Sing to me of the plans that you have for me over again

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope

I give you my destiny
I’m giving you all of me
I want your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs I’m giving it back

So I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I pray to be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope


Advent Means:
Expectation, Yearning, Anticipation, Preparation, Waiting …
Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other–things that are of no real consequence–the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside. — Dietrech Bonhoeffer, Letters from Prison–November 21, 1943It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them. — George Eliot

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. — Mahatma Gandhi

Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. — Karl Rahner

This Advent, I want to warm myself by the fire of hope! — Christopher West

Once again we mark the arrival of Advent. This holy season trumpets God’s extravagant love for us, a love beyond reckoning. Into our beautiful yet wounded world comes Emmanuel, God-with-us, carrying the promise of fresh hope to enliven our hearts. No matter how broken or seemingly hopeless our world may sometimes seem, the Advent messages are rich with joyous expectation and longing, insisting that God can and does bring forth life where none seems possible. ― Sr. Chris Koellhoffer IHM, Pope Francis: Living Advent With Joy and Peace: Encouragement and Prayers


On Hope

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. — Anne Lamott

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last. — Toni Morrison, Beloved

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. — Robert Fulghum

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. — Helen Keller

To announce, however, that the Liberator is sitting among the poor and that the wounds are signs of hope and that today is the day of liberation, is a step very few can take. But this is exactly the announcement of the wounded healer: ‘The master is coming–not tomorrow, but today, not next year, but this year, not after all our misery is passed, but in the middle of it, not in another place but right here where we are standing.’ — Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally. … Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us. ― Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time

Our time has a great need for hope! The young can no longer be robbed of hope. … The young need hope. It is necessary to offer concrete signs of hope to those who experience pain and suffering. Social organizations and associations, as well as individuals who strive towards acceptance and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore, I exhort your Christian communities to be agents of solidarity, never to stop before those who, for mere personal interest, sow self-centeredness, violence and injustice. Oppose yourselves to the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of life! May the light of God’s Word and the support of the Holy Spirit help you to look with new and willing eyes upon the new forms of poverty that drive so many young people and families to desperation. — Pope Francis, Audience with Italian diocese of Cassano all’Jonio in the region of Calabria, 2015


Opposing Thoughts on Hope

We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Hope is important, because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But that is the most that hope can do for us – to make some hardship lighter. When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future, that we will arrive at peace, or the Kingdom of God. Hope becomes a kind of obstacle. If you can refrain from hoping, you can bring yourself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is already here. — Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace Is Every Step


Prisoners of Hope — Omid Safi, Columnist (from On Being with Krista Tippett)

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is a line in Zechariah, often overlooked:

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Hope is powerful. Hope is different. It is more, much more, than mere optimism.

Optimism runs deep in the American consciousness. Many have commented on the inherent optimism of the American people. But optimism is….cheap.

Optimism is ultimately about optics, about how we see the world. It’s about seeing the glass half-full.

Hope is different. Hope is a cosmic quality. Hope is rooted in faith, with feet mired in suffering. Hope is a heart in agony that yearns for liberation.

As Desmond Tutu says, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” For hope to exist, there has to be darkness. For hope to be real, there has to be a prison. And we, in the prison.

Return to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Hope is tied not to how we see the world, but to the faith we have in how the world actually is and will be.

Hope is not about seeing the world, but about the heart behind the eye, the soul that sees.

We hope that light will, someday, triumph over darkness, that love will gain victory over hatred, that compassion will gain over apathy.

We need to hope, to bear the darkness.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

Hope is not a choice. Hope is not optics. Hope is not mere politics. We are wrapped up in hope. Caught up in hope. Imprisoned in hope.

Return to your fortress.
O you prisoners of hope

We hope in the moral goodness of the universe. We hope in the goodness of God. We hope in the victory of good over evil. We hope, even if we may not get to see the triumph.

Hope is planting a tree, knowing that we will be feeding the warms under the tree’s ground before the tree yields fruit.

Hope, real hope, not cheap optimism, mingles with suffering. Hope, real hope, has nothing Pollyannaish about it.

Hope recognizes the chains around our feet, hope yearns for liberation in the very midst of the prison. Hope sees the rays of light in the depth of the dark night.

Hope is an active act of faith, refusing to surrender.

Return to your fortress
O you prisoners of hope

Fortress is not a zip code. Fortress has no walls and moats. Fortress is a commitment to God and humanity, to the poor and to beauty. It is in this fortress that we, the prisoners, find hope.

We hope because without hope life would not be bearable.

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

In the “go back”, I hear the voice of Martin. “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

“Go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.”

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Today, we say,

Go back to your fortress,
O you prisoners of hope.

Go back to Ferguson. Go back to Staten Island. Go back to South Carolina. Go back to Chapel Hill. Go back to Syria. Go back to Palestine.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. Let us climb on ahead to the promised land of justice.

This is our hope. For us, the prisoners of hope.